What is a Somatotype?
A somatotype is a term coined in the 1940s by Dr William Sheldon, a psychologist, who originally used it as a way to predict an individual’s personality traits based on their general appearance. As time has gone on, it has also been used in bodybuilding to describe an individual’s body type, and as a result, may provide some insight into how the individual can use this information when it comes to their training and nutrition.
Somatotypes are broken down into three categories: Ectomorphic, Mesomorphic, and Endomorphic. An individual will usually be a mix of two, with one being more prominent than the other (e.g. Ecto-Mesomorphic).
Photo credit: Granito Diaz
Ectomorphic is the theoretical body type of a lean, only slightly muscular individual. An ectomorph is said to have a high metabolism. Because of this, the individual can easily maintain a low-fat physique. However, they do not add muscle or body weight quickly.
An ectomorph will want to incorporate many power movements (squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.) in their training regime. They would want to focus more on lifting heavy (6-8 rep range, 12 for lower body) and try to gain strength to build a solid foundation.
Regarding diet, an ectomorph will want to focus on gaining weight; thus they will need to be in a caloric surplus to do so. The individual may find it easier to use a weight-gainer supplement to attain the additional calories over and above their maintenance levels, particularly those individuals with a high metabolism.
A mesomorph is the body type of an individual who has detailed muscular development and low body fat. This theoretical body type can maintain lower body fat and has a greater than average ability to achieve muscular development.
Due to what can fairly be deemed good genetics, a mesomorph can tend to focus on hypertrophy training (10-12 rep range). However, it should be noted that it’s good to change up the regime and incorporate strength and endurance training into your workouts periodically.
As the mesomorph has a greater than average ability to build muscle to their physique while still maintaining a low amount of body fat, in an ideal world I’d recommend that they follow a lean bulking approach to dieting (i.e. 200-300 calories above maintenance).
An endomorph is said to be an individual who has big bones, round face, wider body and a naturally high degree of body fat. This body type usually struggles to control their weight. They’re able to put on muscle easily, but are also very susceptible to putting on fat easily too.
With a higher level of body fat, an endomorph may want to put a bigger focus on endurance training, with short rest times between sets, to try and burn as much fat as possible. They may also want to incorporate additional aerobic exercises (e.g. running, cycling, etc.) in their workout routines. Again, this is so that they’re able to burn further calories and put them in a better position to be in a caloric deficit.
The endomorph needs to put a big emphasis (more so than the other two somatotypes) on nutrition and dieting. Depending on the current situation with regards to the endomorph's physique (i.e. body fat percentage and lean body mass), will determine whether they should be in a calorie surplus or deficit. In general terms, it’s safe to assume that in most cases, the endomorph will ideally be looking to lose excess body fat when first starting out, thus a caloric deficit will the approach they should focus on.
With all this said, it’s fair to say that regardless of your somatotype, those who attain a great physique have several key things in common: they worked hard, their diet was good, and they persevered by taking a long term approach.